Football is fixed. The football industry is massive and it’s getting bigger. With the rights to the English Premiership being sold for billions worldwide it becoming a global phenomenon. Even the Americans are getting into the sport. With so much at stake there’s no wonder that some football matches will be fixed. Matches are fixed in order to game vast sums of money from the football betting markets.
Update… Jose Mourinho thinks football is fixed. Well, that what you could read into his recent comments made in the wake of Real Madrid’s defeat by Barcelona at the Bernabeu in the Champions League semi-final first leg. Mourinho believes that Barco where favourable treated by the referees.
Footballers like to gamble. That’s a fact. Wayne Rooney racked up debts of £700,000 with a gambling company. Of course he can afford it. One problem with professional footballers is that they can afford it. They don’t drink, smoke, or take drugs so it’s one of the only vices left. Matthew Etherington used to gamble on the team bus on the way to West Ham games. He wouldn’t think twice about getting through £20,000 on a coach journey. It’s no surprise that footballers gamble. There are clear guidelines from the Football Association regarding professional footballers gambling. Not least because it’s one of the causes for football matches being fixed.
It’s easy to see how football games can be fixed. An anonymous football used to get himself booked, red cards and yellow cards, so that gangs could make money from the booking points betting markets. That’s easy money and doesn’t necessarily turn the game in the favour of one team or another. The same footballer accepted a bribe of £50,000 to fix a game. Why? To pay a debt he owed to a bookmaker. It’s much easy to manipulate a game in this way, but, not as easy to fix the outcome of a football match.
Incidents of match fixing in the UK have been due in the main to the decision of footballers themselves with no links to organised crime or large betting syndicates. That’s not to say the influence of betting syndicates is non existent. There was recently the case of an Asian betting syndicate corrupting a worker at Charlton Athletic who would cause the flood lights to turn off in order to manipulate games. Surprisingly the UK has been free from the top football match fixing scandals. Does that mean that it doesn’t happen or just that it goes undetected? Think of all the questionable refereeing decisions that take place week in week out in the English Premiership…. but the referee’s decision remains final. Why won’t Sep Blatter allow the introduction of goal line technology? Now, this is a conspiratorial type statement, but, it could be that fixing of football matches is allowed at the highest echelons of the Football Association. Let’s face it a lot of the officials in the Football Association have form for corruption.
How are football games fixed?
Footballers themselves can easily get carded more often. Or perhaps try to persuade team mates to not play as well. However, the most prevalent type of football fixing involves referees. This makes sense because it is referees who control football games and funnily enough it is the referees that earn the least amount of money of anyone on the pitch. The biggest football fixing scandals involve referees. For instance the 2005 Bundesliga Scandal, 2006 Serie A scandal, 2009 Europe wide scandal, and the 2010 Turkish scandal all involved referees. From these scandals it’s plain to see that football fixing to get money from football betting markers is big business for betting syndicates and organised crime.
It doesn’t stop there. Corruption in the football betting industry continues. Suspicious odds and bookmakers suspending bets is a clear warning bell that match fixing is taking place.
Trustworthy bookmakers are able to spot unusual trading patterns with relative ease. As was the case in the article linked-to above. The number of bookmakers offering odds on the Napoli vs Lazio match shrank from 40 to 7 as bookmakers stopped taking bets. By inference does that then mean that the 7 bookies left had something to do with the potential match fixing? With firms like Betfair, the betting exchange, it’s easy to spot large amounts of money entering betting markets. In this example, there was a massive amount of money wagered on the draw between Napoli vs Lazio, much much more than normal.
How insidious is football betting corruption?
So far this post has looked at cases of corruption at the player level. The most wide spread football fixing cases always involve referees. People working at the football club can get involved, as was the case with the corruption of a security guard at Charlton Athletic in 1999 in the Floodlight Scandal. Football managers where implicated in the Serie A scandal. To date no Football Association officials or club executives have been suspected in any match fixing cases, however, it may only be a matter of time. Then there’s the bookmakers. In the case above there where still 7 bookmakers taking bets on the Napoli vs Lazio match. There are many off shore bookmakers who turn a blind eye to irregular betting patterns, which are tell tail signs that football is fixed (some of the time).
It’s no wonder football games are fixed due to the amount of money in the football betting industry and the ease with which criminals are able to extract it. With corruption likely at all levels of the football industry football fixing is something that is not likely to disappear. Punters can use firms like Betfair to detect unusual betting patters and could use them to make profitable bets. For instance if a punter observes an above average amount of money being wagered on one selection it could be a sign that the odds will shorten in the future: something that is necessary for successful football bet trading.